The untold truth of Pizza Hut

Whether you're a fan or not, chances are you know that Pizza Hut is kind of a big deal. The multi-billion dollar company has been around since the 1950s, when it was founded by two brothers who had to borrow their seed money from their mother to open their first pizza shop in Wichita, Kansas. In 2017, it wass the the second leading pizza chain in the United States in terms of sales numbers, and has franchises all over the world. What is it about this pizza chain that makes it stand out from its competition? Some of the answers may surprise you.

A Pizza Hut pizza was one of the first things ever sold on the internet

It's rare today that someone will actually call a pizza place to order a pie for delivery. These days, people are more likely to go online to place their order or do it straight from a mobile app. While this seems like a modern luxury, Pizza Hut has been sold online since the '90s. It was one of the first (if not the first) things ever sold on the world wide web.

Some people claim Pizza Hut just barely missed out on the honors of making the first online sale — losing by about a week to a Sting album — but they were definitely one of the first online retailers. Either way, they can boast that they were the first restaurant to offer online ordering.

They've delivered to outer space

Pizza Hut is all about firsts. They were also the first pizza chain to deliver a pizza to outer space. In 2001, a pizza was sent aboard a Russian rocket to the International Space Station. While it sounds like this would be pretty much the most expensive pizza delivery ever, it was Pizza Hut who actually paid the Russian space agency for the opportunity to deliver the first pizza to space. The publicity stunt reportedly cost the chain $1 million.

Yuri Usachov, the lucky Russian cosmonaut who received the pizza, probably didn't even get to enjoy it that much. Prolonged periods of time in space deaden your taste buds. Pizza Hut added some extra salt and spices to the pizza to give it a bit more kick, and swapped the pepperoni for salami to extend the shelf life.

There is a Pizza Hut line of perfume

There's innovation and then there's the Pizza Hut style of innovation. While the idea to launch a Pizza Hut perfume started off as a joke, Pizza Hut Canada decided to go ahead and make it because why not? People like pizza and people like perfume and so the unlikely combination was born.

The limited edition perfume launched in Canada in 2012, arriving in the United States in time for Valentine's Day 2013. The gimmick proved to be popular, though only 72 people were lucky enough to win the very limited release product. "Eau de Pizza Hut is one of the most sought-after and rarest of scents available," Pizza Hut's CMO Kurt Kane told HuffPost Food. Strangely enough, many who were lucky enough to sample the scent reported that it smelled like cinnamon rolls.

Regional offerings can be pretty creative

Pizza Hut has branched out all over the world and does its best to incorporate regional cuisine into their pizza offerings. Some of their concoctions are pretty elaborate. While some of the unique pizzas aren't too crazy, like the hot dog crust pizza in the Philippines, or Germany's macaroni and cheese flavored pizza, other pizzas can get a little wild. New Zealand's stuffed marmite crust might alienate some palates, but that's nothing compared to Japan's bulgogi pizza or Canada's poutine pizza.

While it's great that Pizza Hut pays homage to national dishes, is there such a thing as too far? Surely there are some things that just don't belong on a pizza. That's not stopping Pizza Hut in Hong Kong, though, with their thousand island seafood pizza that features a smorgasbord of toppings, including pineapple and tuna.

They offered an engagement package

What better way is there to tell someone you want to spend the rest of your life with them than with the gift of pizza? In 2012, the chain launched a $10,000 engagement package to help you pop the question... and the pizza. The package came with a ruby engagement ring to match the pizza sauce on the medium pizza that you would dive into after she (hopefully) said yes. Also included were flowers, fireworks, and a professional videographer and photographer to capture the special moment when you declared your undying love for your beloved... at Pizza Hut. How romantic!

Some pretty famous people have starred in Pizza Hut ads

Pizza Hut has pretty much the best ads ever and they have convinced some famous people to star in their commercials. The '90s saw former Soviet leader Mihail Gorbachev promoting the pizza chain, following in the footsteps of a pre-presidential Donald Trump who starred in another commercial with ex-wife Ivana Trump a couple years earlier. Modern Pizza Hut spokespeople include singer Jessica Simpson and comedian Kristen Wiig.

They created a pizza box that can also double as a projector

Pizza Hut has gotten a bit of a reputation for their advertising gimmicks. In 2015, they launched The Blockbuster Box, a pizza box that could be converted into a projector for your cell phone once the pizza was gone. In just a few steps, you could go from just having dinner to having dinner and a movie. Sadly, the innovative idea was limited to Pizza Hut locations in Hong Kong.

Pizza Hut revolutionized restaurant franchising

When Frank and Dan Carney founded Pizza Hut in 1958, restaurant franchising wasn't really a big thing. "At that time there were no courses on franchising," said Dan. "In fact, franchising was pretty much relegated to the auto business at that time. Still, it gave me the background to form my own company, and basically our own franchise agreement, which evolved over time. Today you have entrepreneurship classes, and all kinds of different courses that would pretty much give you the basic background to go into business for yourself."

The idea of restaurant franchising was so unpopular that Dan's professors at Wichita State University wouldn't let him use it as the topic of his master's thesis. Believing that the business model was the future of the food industry, Dan refused to change his topic, dropped out of school, and put his theory to work. Pizza Hut proved to be a success and when Dan went back to school a few years later hoping to finish his degree, he was told that he knew so much he'd be better off teaching the course.

They're one of the world's largest users of cheese

Pizza Hut uses a lot of cheese. In fact, they use more cheese than pretty much anyone else in the world. The company goes through 300 million pounds of cheese every year. That means that three percent of the total cheese in production in the world is bought by Pizza Hut. On top of that, they use 525 million pounds of tomatoes and 700 million pounds of pepperoni. The numbers seem a bit staggering, but Pizza Hut has more than 16,000 locations worldwide.

They built a life-sized pizza thrower

Pizza Hut developed a partnership with the pizza-loving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 2014. They made a lot of childhood dreams come true when the pizza chain built a life-sized Pizza Thrower just like the one Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello use to fight the bad guys. Sadly, the rotating canon did not launch real pizzas, but it was still a pretty cool part of San Diego's Comic-Con.

Pizza Hut roofs sometimes outlast the restaurants

What happens when a Pizza Hut location goes out of business? The chain is known for its iconic red roof which has an easily identifiable shape that perfectly matches its logo. Even after the pizza ovens are out of the building and another business takes over the store, it's still pretty easy to spot a former Pizza Hut. Even if the roof has been painted another color, the shape is still very recognizable, which was the goal when the Carney brothers were thinking of ways to brand their restaurant.

The blog Used to Be a Pizza Hut tracks the fate of the former Pizza Hut buildings that now house other businesses. Some are now office buildings or other restaurants, but most of them still retain the famous Pizza Hut roof. To see some of these former Pizza Huts, check out the Used to Be a Pizza Hut Twitter account.